This recipe for Thai style deep-fried fish is a stunning dish for a shared banquet. The crunch of the crispy skin is a wonderful contrast to the delicate flesh of the snapper.
- 1 kg whole snapper, cleaned
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra, to deep-fry
- 2 tbsp tamarind water
- 135 g (½ cup) palm sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- julienned red bird’s-eye chillies, diagonally sliced spring onions, coriander leaves and lime juice, to serve
- 2 coriander roots, cleaned, chopped
- 3 long red chillies, seeded, roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 Asian red eschalots
- 1 tbsp dried prawns
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Marinating time: 10 minutes
To make the paste, using a mortar and pestle, grind all ingredients until smooth. Rinse fish inside and out under running water. Pat dry inside and out with paper towel. Using the tip of a sharp knife, make shallow slits spaced ½ cm apart along both sides of the fish. Place fish in a bowl with soy sauce and marinate for 10 minutes. Drain. Pat dry with paper towel.
Fry oil and paste in a saucepan over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add tamarind, sugar, fish sauce and 100 ml water. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Lift gill flaps on sides of fish. Pin them open using a skewer inserted through centre of fish. This allows fish to stand upright. Make 3 x 2 cm-deep cuts widthwise across top of fish.
Arrange the fish in an S-shape inside a deep-frying basket. Fill deep-fryer with oil and heat to 170°C. Carefully add the fish and cook for 8 minutes or until golden and skin is crisp. Transfer fish to a platter, spoon over the sauce and top with chillies, spring onions and coriander leaves and drizzle over lime juice, to serve.
As seen in Feast magazine, Issue 11, pg132.
Photography by Alan Benson